Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Diminished Scale As Two Partial Minor Scales

Here's a useful tip I picked up from a Barry Greene book.

The diminished (whole/half) scale is usually viewed as a series of consecutive whole steps and half steps:

A diminished whole/half scale = A, B, C, D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab

Playing the diminished scale in this manner usually yields mechanical patterns and sequential licks.

If we look closely at the first 4 notes of the A diminished scale we'll notice that they spell out the first 4 notes of an A minor scale, namely A, B, C, D.

The next 4 notes, Eb, F, Gb, Ab spell out the first 4 notes of an Eb minor scale.

Using Barry Greene's concept, a diminished (whole/half) is made up of 2 partial minor scales a b5 apart! Which should make for more melodic lines when playing diminished ideas.

Note #1: The whole/half diminished scale is used to improvise over diminished chords.

Note #2: Over dominant 7th chords resolving to a 4th above, eg. G7 to C, play the half/whole diminished scale. Or use the Barry Greene concept and play your partial minor scales a half step higher than the dominant chord you're playing over. Eg. for G7 think Abm/Dm partial scales.

Pretty useful stuff.

The complete home study jazz guitar course


  1. I think these partial scales are also known as tetrachords

    for example, a scale with tones A B C D, or rather, a set of notes arranged in this manner - ie. whole step half step whole step, would be known as a dorian tetrachord. If you put two dorian tetrachords together, you get a dorian scale. if you put a dorian tetrachord followed by a phrygian tetrachord, you get an aeolian mode, or natural minor scale.

  2. You're right. But this is more of an exercise in how to see the diminished scale from a different, hopefully more melodic viewpoint rather than WHWHWHWH or HWHWHWHW.

  3. Yeah i guess it's much more practical for a guitar player if he actually wants to play those things, the tetrachord thing is more useful for writing though when it comes down to pen and paper.

    On a side note, 5 years ago, when I was studying for my O levels in SJI, I saw you jamming at the Tanglin CC underground studio, that's when I was still just a few months into picking up my first instrument. It was some fusion/rock thing you were playing, and I was bamboozled by the twin reverb in that room and your playing haha.

    Where do you play now? I'd love to go and watch again.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...